Browsing Reflections

Fr. Jo's Reflection for the 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time Yr B, July 7, 2024

Familiarity does indeed breed contempt. Frequently, people take others for granted for two reasons: familiarity and pride. You may add a third reason: ignorance, which often wears the garb of “I-know-it-all or I’m better.” Familiarity, pride, ignorance played out well in the first reading and the gospel of today. Relatives of Jesus who thought they knew him well treated him contemptuously, referring to him as a carpenter—the type that only made plows and yokes that any peasant of his day was capable of making. They also called him Mary’s son. Among the Jews, to describe a man as the “son of his mother,” even when the father is deceased is often an insult. The mention of the so-called brothers and sisters of Jesus is a reference to relatives who in other gospels appear to be cousins. For example, James and Joseph were called children of Mary the wife of Cleophas in Matthew 27:56.  But leave it to those who, to discredit the doctrine of the Virgin Birth and the Perpetual Virginity of Mary, would maintain that those were also children of Mary, ignoring the fact that the Bible never explicitly stated so. The point of the passage was to show that Jesus and his folks were common people, like regular Joe or Bill. They took offence at Jesus. He was just another one of them, and no more. He didn’t come from a line of rabbis, doctors, and the noble of the society. They took him for granted and lost out. No miracles occurred among them.

  The second reason why people take others for granted is pride. Ignorance and foolishness are its daughters. When pride matures, it breeds jealousy, and some complex—either inferiority or superiority complex. What follows is obstinacy and hardness of heart. Their grandchild is rebellion. The prophet Ezekiel was sent to prophecy to a people bedeviled by this sickness. With unrelenting words, he describes the Israelites of his days as “impudent” and “stubborn.” It won’t be wrong to say so about many men, women and children of our day who have chosen to live with their rebellious ideas against all truth.

When familiarity, pride, foolishness, obstinacy and rebellion form alliance, they knock out reason and disparage faith. With reason and faith out of the equation, human life becomes imprisoned in the self and in the candlelight of mediocrity. Consequently, the ego, made in the image and likeness of the spirit of the world in which it lives reigns supreme. Archbishop Fulton Sheen describes the ego as the spoiled child in us—selfish, petulant, clamorous, and spoiled—the creation of our mistakes in living. It hates anything that does not gratify it; so, when we don’t feel fine about a truthful idea that threatens our thwarted conception of reality, we adopt one that’s in line with our feelings; when pleasure ebbs in our spouse, we change marriage beds; when we don’t feel fine about our Church, we change church or faith. Fanned by the ego, life becomes meaningless and monotonous—destroying the purpose of life.

But life is only monotonous if it is meaningless; it is only meaningless if it has no purpose. Those who are full of life and faith love monotony; they love repetition. Put a child in your knee and bounce it up and down two to three times and the child will say, “Do it again.” Because God is full of life, I imagine each morning the Almighty says to the sun: “Do it again,” and every evening to the moon and stars, “Do it again” (Sheen). We would continually ask our heart to “do it again.” If we are full of life and full of love, we won’t grow so familiar with the Mass and Holy Communion that we lose the sense of the life we gain from such a great gift. Religion (our faith, prayer) is a living thing. It is like bread we use every day, not like cake which is used on special occasions. When faith is intentional it permeates our lives and won’t be something we pull out only on Sunday mornings. May God’s life in us warm up our existence and bring excitement to our lives!

Fr. Chukwudi Jo Okonkwo


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